History of the initiative
The ESA National Economic Panel and the ESA Monash Economic Forum are the brainchild of the Victorian Branch of the Economic Association of Australia (ESA).
One Council member, Tom Chan, pushed hard for the development of a panel of leading Australian economists and a public policy polling platform along the lines of that developed by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His business case and implementation strategy were accepted by the Victorian Branch Council. Dr Matt Butlin and Professor Rod Maddock then convinced the Central Council of the ESA to adopt it as a national initiative. At that stage, Rod commenced conversations with Professor Colm Kearney, the Head of the Monash Business School, and Dr George Rivers, Associate Dean Research Collaboration, to see whether Monash was interested in implementing the concept. The two parties agreed in principle that Monash should host the Forum for the initial three years.
In parallel, the ESA commenced the process of assembling the National Economic Panel (NEP). This involved gathering nominations from each state branch of the Society and then the President, Matt Butlin and the executive made the final decisions. Obviously there were compromises involved in doing this: some of Australia's finest economists are not on the list, but the list represents a strong cross-section and, over time, will adapt and change. There was a rapid and overwhelmingly positive response: Matt approached 52 members to participate, expecting this would result in a panel of around 40. In the event, 49 people accepted, most of them expressing enthusiastic support for the project.
Once the NEP was established, Tom Chan and Buly Cardak formalised the membership by creating a webpage presenting the inaugural panel members, their biographies and photos.
Because an efficient and effective administrative system was needed for the forum, Tom and Buly first developed a prototype that Monash would develop into the ESA-Monash Forum website. They undertook a process of formulating questions using a crowd sourcing model to derive a potential set, winnowing the list down, and, with Matt Butlin, refined the set of questions with which to start the process. The first poll was successfully conducted with a great response from the NEP members. The data was processed and presented on a mock-up website. Professor John Freebairn quickly accepted Matt's request to craft a commentary on the initial question for use with the media. Rod Maddock then arranged for the mock-up website to be tested with a senior Australian journalist.
Finally in October, the materials were able to be implemented on the Monash Business School website with the Monash Business School taking responsibility for implementation, operations and development. Monash will also take responsibility for further promulgation of the materials.